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Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing

Overview of the social housing system

Public and Community Housing Management Act 1992, s 110

The government provides subsidised rental housing through state-owned housing managed by Kāinga Ora (Housing New Zealand) and also through around 60 community housing organisations such as churches, iwi and housing trusts.

The 63,000 state houses managed by Kāinga Ora (Housing NZ) provide homes for over 184,000 people, including tenants and their families. There’s a waiting list to get into state houses – as at February 2021 there were over 23,000 people on the waiting list, plus their families.

Local councils also provide a range of rental housing, but this is separate from central government’s subsidised rental housing system (see below “What is local council housing?”). Government-subsidised housing and local council housing are now often referred to as “social housing”.

Which government agency does what in the social housing system?

The Ministry of Social Development (not Kāinga Ora/Housing NZ) is responsible for:

  • assessing whether you qualify for social housing
  • deciding what your position on the waiting list will be, which will depend on your level of housing need (your “priority rating”)
  • assessing what your income-related rent will be once a place comes up for you, and reviewing your rent each year
  • reviewing at different times whether you continue to qualify for social housing once you’re in a social housing property
  • funding Housing New Zealand and community housing providers
  • managing debt and fraud related to social housing.

Your landlord will be either Kāinga Ora or a community housing provider such as a church or iwi organisation. The role of these landlords includes:

  • matching prospective tenants to particular properties
  • preparing and managing tenancy agreements
  • starting and ending tenancies
  • charging and collecting rent
  • maintaining the properties and doing repairs
  • transferring tenants between properties
  • buying, selling and developing properties.

To be able to get funding from the government, community housing providers have to be registered with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority (part of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)). The Authority’s role is to make sure that community housing providers provide good quality homes, have good tenancy management services, and are well-managed financially.

Issues to do with bonds are dealt with by Tenancy Services at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) (see “Rent, bonds and other costs” in this chapter). Disputes with your housing provider can be taken to mediation and, if necessary, to the Tenancy Tribunal, just like tenancy disputes with private landlords (see “The Tenancy Tribunal: A court to decide tenancy disputes” in this chapter).

Who are “community housing providers”?

Public and Community Housing Management Act 1992, Parts 8, 10

These include church and iwi organisations and housing trusts and foundations. They have to register with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority and meet the required standards. In June 2021, there were 60 organisations registered with the Authority. For a list of registered community housing providers, go to: www. chra.hud.govt.nz/about-chra/register

The Community Housing Regulatory Authority supervises and monitors community housing providers. It does this annually for each organisation, checking them against the performance standards they’re required to meet, and it will also investigate if there are complaints from tenants. The Authority can suspend or revoke an organisation’s registration if appropriate.

What is local council housing?

Local councils operate their own rental housing, some of which they subsidise. Wellington City Council, for example, provides around 8 percent of all residential rental properties in the city. Local council social housing is separate from the system of central government funding for Kāinga Ora (Housing NZ) and community housing providers. A key difference is that local council housing rent isn’t subsidised by the government through what’s called the “income related rent subsidy”. This means that rent for local council housing is based on market rent rather than your income.

Contact your local council to find out about what council housing might be available in your area (contact details for each council are available at www.govt.nz/organisations).

Councils often aim to provide for housing needs that aren’t met by the other main social housing providers such as Kāinga Ora. For example, Kāinga Ora provides mainly two- and three-bedroom accommodation, Wellington City Council provides mainly bedsits and one-bedroom flats, and therefore most WCC tenants are single people and couples without children. Similarly, Christchurch City Council provides mainly one-bedroom units. Some city councils provide subsidised rental housing for older people.

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Tenancy and housing

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and can help you make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Tenancy Services – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)


MBIE‘s Tenancy Services section provides information to tenants and to landlords. It also provides dispute-resolution services.

Tenancy advice line

Phone: 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY). Free translation services are available.

Bond enquiries

Phone: 0800 737 666. Free translation services are available.

Information and forms

Tenancy Services provides information and various forms online or you can order forms by phoning 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANC)

Applying to the Tenancy Tribunal

You can apply online, or you can get a paper copy of the form from a Tenancy Services office. The application processes are explained at:

Tenants Protection Associations


Some cities have Tenants Protection Associations:

Christchurch – (03) 379 2297,

Auckland – (09) 360 1473

Renters United

www.rentersunited.org.nz (in Wellington only)

Renters United is an organisation for renters in Wellington. They focus on organising renters and campaigning to make renting better for everyone.

Manawatu Tenants Union

Manawatu Tenants Union provides advocacy and support for renters in the Manawatu region

Phone: 06 357 7435

Email: info@mtu.org.nz

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone (0800 FOR CAB) 0800 367 222

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for information about what local tenancy services are available to you.

Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand)


Kāinga Ora, which manages the state housing stock in New Zealand, has a range of information on its website.

Phone: 0800 801 601

Ministry of Social Development


The Ministry of Social Development assesses eligibility for the social housing provided by Housing New Zealand and registered community housing providers. MSD also calculates income-related rent for social housing and conducts tenancy reviews.

MSD‘s social housing staff can be contacted through Work and Income offices:

Phone Work and Income on 0800 559 009 or, if you’re 65 or older, contact Senior Services on 0800 552 002.

Community Housing Regulatory Authority


Phone: (04) 896 5908

Email: CHRA@hud.govt.nz

The Authority approves and registers community housing providers and monitors registered providers. You can read the register of approved providers on the Authority’s website.

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